The City of Courtenay receives 10 per cent of gambling income generated at Chances Playtime, which last year totalled nearly $1 million, according to the BC Lottery Corporation.
Part of the revenue was allocated to cultural grants, given to non-profits and organizations that contribute to the cultural identity of the region.
One of the recipients is the Sid Williams Theatre Society, which has received $105,000 in each of the last two years. The money has helped enable the society to keep the venue accessible and affordable by way of subsidized rental rates. The grant also helps ‘The Sid’ host special outreach events, such as 2016’s Beyond the Ceremonial Welcome — a lead-up to the Walking With Our Sisters exhibit that honored missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
“In 2017, we co-hosted a suicide awareness and prevention day, which is being planned again for 2018,” SWTS general manager Deb Renz said. “We co-hosted these specific events with K’omoks First Nation and several other community organizations.”
The Sid originally operated as a movie theatre from 1935 until the 1960s, back when it was called the Bickle Theatre. It was re-opened as a community live-performance venue in 1971. It was first called the Civic Theatre before being named after Sid Williams in the 1980s. Annual attendance, including patron and performer visits, is in the 50,000-range. The staff of 15, along with 150 volunteers, provide services to more than 200 events each year, 80 per cent of which are put on by community non-profits accessing discounted rental rates.
Besides government grants, the society relies on donations and fundraisers such as raffles. The theatre generates earned revenue from event proceeds, commercial rentals and ticket handling fees.
The Sid Williams Theatre fund with the Comox Valley Community Foundation returns interest earnings to the society each year, Renz notes. It also receives funding from the Comox Valley Regional District arts and culture grant service, and a contribution from the Town of Comox.
This year, other Courtenay cultural grant recipients include the DCBIA to support downtown events ($5,000); the Courtenay and District Historical Society ($50,000); the Comox Valley Art Gallery Society ($65,000); Comox Valley Arts ($13,000); the Comox Valley Multicultural Society & Immigration Support Society ($3,500), and the Comox Valley Folk Society for Vancouver Island MusicFest ($5,500).
Last year, the DCBIA and Historical Society receive the same amounts. The Art Gallery Society received $75,000, CV Arts $12,500 and the Multicultural Society $3,000.